Nelson Mandela is one of history’s most influential and inspirational figures. Around the globe, Mandela’s legacy shines as a beacon of hope and a reflection of noble qualities one should strive for. Mandela or fondly known as ‘Madiba’ was a firm believer in equal rights for all.
The icon spent his lifetime fighting for the voiceless, oppressed and the underprivileged. History will forever remember his revolutionary efforts in making a difference for South Africans and his inspirational words.
Mandela Day is celebrated every year on 18 July in honour of Mandela’s birthday as declared by the United Nations. The first UN Mandela Day was celebrated in 2010.
In honour of the great legacy left behind by the late icon, let’s take a moment to reflect on some of his famous words on education, equality and good will for us to live by.
1. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”
Mandela has always valued education. Even during 27 years of imprisonment, he made it a point to educate himself by pursuing an external law degree from the University of London.
His commitment to education and learning was so inspiring that even his fellow cell mates followed suit – “At night, our cell block seemed more like a study hall than a prison. Robben Island was known as ‘the University’ because of what we learnt from each other.” (Long Walk To Freedom)
Mandela was moved by the plight of those who lacked access to education which lead him to establish the Nelson Mandela Institute for Rural Development and Education in 2007.
The organisation provides education to rural children in South Africa with educational challenges such as collapsing classrooms, leaking roofs, shortages of desks and teachers. It also develops training programmes for teachers and helps students to improve their communication skills and build self-confidence.
2. “Your freedom and mine cannot be separated”
‘Apartheid’ was rife in South Africa back in 1948. The system encouraged discrimination of Africans and other people of colour including Asians.
Together with the African National Congress (ANC) Youth lead, Mandela fought the system with non-violent protests. For instance, Mandela was instrumental in the 1952 defiant campaign and 1955 congress of the people. In addition, he also started the country’s first law practice for black people when he served as a lawyer for mistreated black citizens.
Mandela’s radical approach eventually led to his arrest. Nevertheless, the government offered to only release him under the condition that he was not allowed to participate in political activities once freed. To which Mandela famously replied – “I cannot and will not give any undertaking at a time when I and you, the people, are not free. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated.”
3. “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”
After his release from prison, Mandela worked tirelessly to promote the idea of peace and unity. For example, he started working with the government by propagating the doctrine of non-violence to unite the entire South African population. He also toured internationally to gain more support for the movement.
His words clearly resonated with the people as his efforts finally saw victory in 1994. The African National Congress (ANC) won 63% of the votes, ending the Apartheid policy and making Mandela the first black president of South Africa.
4. “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead”
Mandela is widely known as an iconic humanitarian. In fact, he once donated a third of his income for an organisation fighting to eradicate poverty. In 1993, he donated part of the money he received from the Nobel Peace Prize for causes related to the welfare of children.
View a short summary of his incredible legacy below.
*Featured image sourced from History Channel